General Secretary of the Industrial and Commercial (ICU), Solomon Kotei, has said the failure of government’s first-quarter budget for 2021 to deal with a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana if it should re-surge.in an interview with Business Finder, Mr Kotei expressed deep worry over the lack of adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols, in the wake of the fever-pitch political campaigning by political parties across the country.
As elections draw close, political rallies across the country have been characterized by wanton disregard especially for social distancing among other restrictions.
Being witnesses to happenings across Europe where sweeping measures have been imposed to contain a second wave of the pandemic, the ICU was of the view that the budget though prepared for a limited period should have thrown some light on avenues to fight a second wave and a possible lockdown.
“ICU was under the impression some provision would be made in the first quarter budget of 2021 to deal with impact of a second wave. We didn’t hear anything of that sort from the Finance Minister,” Mr Kotei noted.
No update on new health facilities
The Union further wondered why no update was given in the budget on the planned construction of some health facilities announced by the President in one of to help bolster the health care delivery system against the pandemic and future disasters.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated countries, disrupted productivity, threatened food security, multiplied job losses, and reduced incomes, particularly for the poorest.
The Ghanaian economy had also faced the health and economic consequences of the pandemic which had threatened lives and livelihoods.
Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta when presenting the budget last Wednesday noted that COVID-19 had so far not been as deadly due to “our President’s leadership, thus, our preoccupation has been on addressing the socio-economic dislocations occasioned by this pandemic.”
“Our response to this pandemic prioritises the protection of our lives and livelihoods, sustains our business operations, and sharpens our focus on Ghana’s future Beyond Aid,” he told legislators.
The government had moved swiftly to mitigate the threats to lives and livelihoods by implementing the GH¢1,342million COVID-19 Emergency.
Preparedness and Response Plan to protect lives; operationalising the GH¢1.2billion Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) to support businesses; launching a GH¢2 billion Guarantee Scheme to enable SMEs to borrow at a more affordable rate; supporting the GH¢3 billion credit and stimulus package by commercial banks in Ghana to revitalize industries, especially pharmaceutical, hospitality, services and manufacturing sectors.
Mr Ofori-Atta recalled that government had offered strategic support in income increases and life insurance in excess of GH¢320 million to incentivize health workers and allied professionals; supported households and businesses with electricity and water subsidies in excess of GH¢1.3 billion and funded the provision of cooked food to 1.83 million and 917,000 vulnerable persons within Accra & Kumasi metropolis, respectively.
Business Finder’s checks with the mid-year review of the 2020 budget, revealed admission by the minister that “the predicted long-lasting effect of this pandemic, amidst systemic shifts and uncertainties, suggest 2020 and beyond will be very challenging.”
According to Mr Ofori Atta, Ghana will need continuity of courageous, compassionate, and competent government, with a well-crafted programme to protect the lives of Ghanaians, safeguard jobs, and support businesses to sustain operations during this period, and especially in the four years ahead.